Resolution to Guarantee Year-Round On-Campus Housing for Current and Former Foster Youth Attending SSU

Resolved, The Academic Senate of Sonoma State University recommends that President Armiñana establish a policy guaranteeing year-round on-campus housing for current and former foster youth attending SSU and order an implementation plan by Spring 2014.

Rationale:  To improve retention of former foster youth enrolled in the CSU system, in 2011 the Chancellor’s Office directed all CSU campuses to provide priority registration to former foster youth, in compliance with state law AB 194. Sonoma State provides priority registration for the approximately 30 currently enrolled SSU students coming from foster care.  In addition, AB 1393, specifically related to campus housing for current and former foster youth, was passed in 2009 and subsequently incorporated into Section 90001.5 of the California Education Code: “In order to ensure that current and former foster youth who are students at campuses of the California State University have stable housing, a campus of the California State University that maintains student housing facilities shall give priority to current and former foster youth. In addition, a campus of the California State University that maintains student housing facilities open for occupation during school breaks, or on a year-round basis, shall first give priority to current or former foster youth for residence in the housing facilities that are open for uninterrupted year-round occupation, and next give priority to current or former foster youth for housing that is open for occupation during the most days in the calendar year.”

To improve services to youth from foster care, Ray Murillo, Associate Director of Student Programs at the Chancellor’s Office, circulated to EOP Directors the Supporting Success report from the Casey Family Programs Foundation.  This report, geared toward “improving higher education outcomes for students from foster care,” identifies year-round housing as a basic need. “Youth from foster care need to have priority for … access to year-round housing.”

For Sonoma State, this would mean exempting current and former foster care students from Sonoma State’s traditional Spring “lottery” for the next year’s campus housing and clearly articulating that these students can remain in their rooms during holiday breaks.  We believe the costs to Sonoma State would be minimal and the benefits significant in terms of student retention of current and former foster youth.

Those working with current and former foster youth at Sonoma State have seen how disruptive it is to them when they don’t receive campus housing.  These students are unlikely to have co-signers or rental deposit funds and may not have automobiles.  In addition, such youth have often lived with chronic housing insecurity.  A former foster youth said, in Supporting Success, “I have been to so many schools in my life that I can’t count them….I have lived in so many homes and shelters.  Just in this past year, I
have lived in twelve different homes….I want the freedom to know where I am going to sleep, the freedom to know where my belongings are, and the freedom to know that I won’t be asked to leave in the morning or the end of the week.”

Model programs, like the Guardian Scholars Program at San Francisco State, citing the statistic that “only
1% of former foster care youth attend college and of those, only 11% earn bachelor’s degrees,” have extended guaranteed on-campus housing to include the summer months. Initial results showed a retention rate of 88% of all Guardian Scholars at year three.  SSU can, at a minimum, provide former foster youth guaranteed year-round housing.

Websites to visit for additional information related to Foster Youth resolution:

Assembly Bill 194

Casey Family Programs

CSU Foster Youth

San Francisco State’s Guardian Scholars Program

Approved by the Senate